The Elephant Letter

March, 1988

Laurie, Abbie and I went to the circus last Sunday at the Syracuse War Memorial Auditorium; a more threadbare pageant you could never hope to see. After the first three acts, the show folk began resurfacing in new costumes with new names. Stuntwise, the degree of difficulty was never so high as to bar geriatric participation. Performers wandered around in bathrobes prior to their appearances and no two roustabouts wore the same garb.

The announcer, Colonel Lucky Larabee, was a silver-toned classic, who used the word “classic” several times to describe the goings-on. The women favored high-cut tights, skirts slit to the hip or stretch pants that earned the word “stretch” as no other pants had before them. The big-cat tamer, “whose beauty is only equaled by her courage,” wore pants of glossy black that seemed always on the verge of exploding. Her tigers, apparently fed to bursting and brought to the Big O several times on the eve of their performance, had all they could do to stay awake.

The jokes were no more painful than impacted wisdom teeth and the crowd responded politely throughout, applauding the derring-do, but not, as Lucky Larabee requested, “until the performers are safely back on the ground, where we mortals choose to remain.”

Also on the ground were a troupe of trained dogs, another of trained pigs (led by the same couple in new costumes), and trained horses. Next to the cotton-candy, Abbie liked “the lady on the horse” who wore a plumed and tufted costume and made her horse back up and bow.

Imagine then our disappointment as the final act was announced, the famous George Hannaford Elephants, to be put through their paces by the lovely Evelyn Hannaford who had just finished putting six Arabian horses through a remarkably similar act. But we were not to be left with an empty feeling.

Ho, no. Midway through the pachyderms’ synchronized spin around their little pedestals, the third, right-hand elephant began to shit. Not just to shit, as might you or I, but releasing a Niagara of spent feed, an elephantine eruption, a great venting from its lofty asshole, like a safe falling from a second-story window, brown expanding mass plunging earthward in sufficient quantity to block out the sun if you were standing close enough, as was the keeper’s helper who darted into the ring with a shovel fully 24 inches across at the blade end, shoveling this living lava as fast as he could, ducking in and out as the elephant twirled, its great round hind feet stamping and squashing the mounds flat, shit flying in every direction, the crowd roaring with laughter, the first and only adult laughter of the day, while the lovely Evelyn Hannaford grinned frozenly and held her whip and free hand high to accept the acclamation, as the elephant on the left began also to shit, sensing the pleasure his companion was giving the crowd, now whipped into its greatest frenzy of the day, a great communal outburst of bathroom humor combined with an outpouring of relief because soon we would be leaving this cavern of vomiting children, cheap toys and stalled or declining careers. It was magnificent.

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One comment

  1. Mike McDonald · · Reply

    AMEN AND AMEN!! This fellow has been to a REAL circus; I wouldn’t trade my experiences like the one I’ve just read for all the proverbial tea in China. They all were magnificent.

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